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Ask Me Anything - Ed Allison


SCIP AMA - Ask Me Anything

SALES BattleCards

SCIP: What are some common mistakes that organizations make with sales battlecards?

ED: Sales Battlecards are one of the most foundational deliverables of a world-class CI team.  However, they're often misunderstood. The three most common mistakes that companies make with battlecards include:


MISTAKE #1 - Battlecards aren't treated as critical deliverables
Everyone is aware of the classic CI debate of strategic vs. tactical deliverables. Let me offer my opinion: There is no difference. In today's highly competitive environment in every industry, understanding tactics will build a better strategy. The corollary is also true. Knowing your strategy will help you better articulate your tactics to take out a competitor.

Additionally, serving the sales organization, which is often one of the larger organizations inside an enterprise, enables you to collect valuable data efficiently. If you offer a carrot first, so to speak, you will find your field engagement time much more efficient and valuable. Imagine having very relevant, highly detailed information from the last 100, 500, or 1000 competitive deals. What could you do with that?

MISTAKE #2 - Battlecards are too generic, consisting of common marketing statements 
Battlecards appear to be easy to create; they aren't. They’re one of the more specific marketing deliverables that exist inside the enterprise. They differ from standard marketing deliverables because they must be laser-focused to be effective. Today’s competitive environments demand it.

Leave your SWOT analysis at the door. Don't bring your statements that start with “We create a unique customer solution, deliverables, journey, experience…” That content is very relevant and essential for your marketing deliverables.  Battlecards aren't about "the story" per se, although good ones tell a great story. Battlecards are about hyper-differentiation. Hyper-differentiation must be delivered to the sales organization efficiently effectively and in summary fashion. Effective battlecards are genuinely an art.

MISTAKE #3 - Battlecards aren't dynamic, interactive, or user-friendly
Battlecards have traditionally been delivered via PowerPoint or PDF. Those formats no longer serve our needs. Why? Because battlecard content changes nearly all the time. It's far too dynamic and specific to be housed in a static file. To close complex sales, sales teams need interactivity and dynamism.

Dynamic Battlecards are usually enabled via competitive intelligence management systems (CIMS), but can also be enabled through the advanced use of Microsoft Excel, SharePoint, Salesforce, and other systems.






Ed Allison


Ed is the Founder and leads development for CompeteIQ (formerly Compelligence). Ed previously led competitive intelligence teams at Cisco, Symbol, Juniper and Polycom. He sees CompeteIQ as a fourth generation evolution of best practices applied through eighteen years of experience supporting tens of thousands of sales, marketing and product management professionals.




Sales Battlecards

SCIP: What effects can good battlecards have on a CI program? How about Sales?

ED:  What's more visible than contributing to revenue? A moment ago, I talked about three common mistakes with implementing battlecards. Now let's look at three major benefits when battlecards are done well:

BENEFIT #1Battlecards provide a visible foundation for a Competitive Intelligence program
In the past, CI programs have grown and died because they couldn't demonstrate their value to the enterprise. Deliverables such as SWOT analysis, or even strategic research projects can have a value that's very hard to assess. Not so with battlecards.

BENEFIT #2 Battlecards are an easy-to-measure CI deliverable
Battlecards inherently offer discrete metrics down to the user and the opportunity. These metrics are often used to determine the value of a department or a corporate effort. Having them at your fingertips will help you demonstrate the value of the CI program, and ultimately grow your department.

BENEFIT #3 Battlecards create sponsorship from the head of Sales and provide a gateway into the C-Suite 
Many CI programs struggle to have the strategic influence that such programs promise. One of the critical issues is access. It's the classic gatekeeper problem. Why would the executive staff want an analyst in their meetings? The answer is because you have helped win more deals than any other department. When looking for an executive sponsor, CI program managers and leaders often try to sell the value of CI one-on-one to an executive leader. This can be successful but you can easily be brushed aside. It's much harder to brush aside the opinion of the top 10 salespeople in the company.  Utilize a strategy of sponsorship via the Sales organization to gain access to the C-Suite. It usually will also get you invited to the annual sales conference which is a lot of fun :



SCIP: Have you seen a company go from good-to-great? How about great-to-crap?

ED: Yes. Don’t let it happen to you. It has everything to do with people. I've seen two dynamics that are particularly common:

First, CI analysts who produce great battlecards get promoted or hired away for more senior roles. One of the career advantages of being in the CI role is that you get to touch just about every other department inside a corporation. You get to interact with product management, product marketing, engineering, sales, and even executives. This results in a CI analyst having a lot of exposure and experience. It's not uncommon for CI analysts to be promoted quickly into other job roles. Many times it is hard to find a “Rockstar.”  If the right people are not leading the program, CI can suffer.

Second, CI leadership changes to a more "traditional" strategy. Organizational changes impact not only the analysts writing the battlecards but also the leaders. CI cultures are susceptible to leadership change, especially so because there isn't one standard model of an ideal CI organization. If a new leader comes in and doesn't value battlecards, the program can quickly deteriorate.  
Watch out for organizational change; while it can usher in great opportunity, it can also be one of the most devastating events a CI program faces.

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